Mercury Prize-winning band Wolf Alice have accused Israel of "weaponising culture" as they backed a boycott of this year’s Eurovision song contest.

Guitarist Joff Oddie told Sky News that Israel, the hosts of this year’s song contest, are serial human rights abusers who use culture to art wash and whitewash over their human rights abuses.

Israel won the honour of hosting the competition after the Israeli contestant Netta won last year’s contest and it will take place in Tel Aviv this week, with the grand final on Saturday.

Wolf Alice, who won the 2018 Mercury Prize, are among a number of musicians, including Peter Gabriel and Roger Waters, who signed an open letter in January calling for a boycott and for the BBC to cancel its coverage of the contest.

Oddie said the letter and the boycott are responding to a call from Palestinian civil society.

He added: We asked Palestine – ‘do you want us to come?’ ‘No – do not come’ and that’s what you do, you respect the people who are being oppressed.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement has been calling for a complete cultural boycott of Israel since 2005, insisting the violation of Palestinian human rights cannot be ignored.

During a demonstration against Eurovision in London, protesters told Sky News contest is no exception.

One demonstrator said: Israel has been able to use Eurovision to present what it terms its prettier face and to use this cultural event to distract from the violations of international law and Palestinian human rights that it continues to carry out every day and has done since 1948.

The BBC say Eurovision is not a political event and in a statement said their coverage would continue.

The competition has always supported the values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance and diversity and we do not believe it would be appropriate to use the BBC’s participation for political reasons, it said.

Because of this we will be taking part in this year’s event. The host country is determined by the rules of the competition, not the BBC.

Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne and Marina Abramovic are among a group of celebrities who have signed a counter open letter rejecting the boycott of Eurovision.

The letter, with more than 100 signatories, stated the competition’s unifying power is currently under attack and the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition.

One of the letter’s signatories, music manager Colin Lester told Sky News those calling for a boycott are bringing musicians into a position that they are not comfortable with quite frankly.

These people are not politicians they don’t want to be involved in politics, they are being dragged into it by the BDS and other people that want to create it as a political event. It’s not a political event.

So far none of the 42 acts taking part in the song contest has pulled out but there are fears the show, which attracts hundreds of millions of viewers, may be disrupted.

(c) Sky News 2019: Wolf Alice back Eurovision boycott over Israel’s alleged human rights abuses